Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Conrad and the Cowgirl Next Door: A Review

In Conrad and the Cowgirl Next Door by Denette Fretz, the first thing Conrad packs when heading to Uncle Clint's ranch to learn to be a cowboy is his Mega Ultimate Extreme First Aid Kit.  It's a good thing, too, because learning how to be a cowboy is a lot harder, and more painful, than he thought.  Conrad has a lot to learn about being a cowboy, but the most difficult part is dealing with the neighbor girl Imogene Louise Lathrop, who knows all the rules and loves to hold her knowledge over Conrad.

This is a cute book with beautiful illustrations, and I liked it.  The story conveys a moral message about forgiving your enemies, but I feel like the final few pages detracted from the message, when Uncle Clint tells Conrad, "Forgive your enemies.  It messes up their heads."  That doesn't seem like a good motivation for forgiveness, or a prudent thing to say to a child, however true it may be.

Bottom line: this is a cute book, but I would buy it because my kid likes cowboys, not for the moral message.

I received this book for free from Book Look Bloggers in exchange for my honest review.

Monday, September 29, 2014

Menu Plan for the Week of September 29

Happy Monday, y'all.  Have you noticed the lack of "this week in review" posts around here lately?  That's because pretty much all we do is go to work and school and then go to football.  Then we go to bed, get up, and do it all over again.  There you go: this week in review for the last month. 

Only a few more weeks of football and then we can start eating like normal people again.  It has been a real challenge coming up with meals that can be eaten in shifts 4 times a week, and I am so looking forward to not having that constraint anymore.  In the meantime, here's what's planned for this week.

--Leftovers/fend for yourself
--Baked oregano chicken, broccoli, cauliflower, carrot medley, applesauce
--Angel hair or spaghetti squash with meat sauce, garlic bread, green beans
--Italian herbed chicken mozzarella melts, salad, leftover veggies from other nights
--Pulled pork sandwiches (BBQ sauce optional), coleslaw (for the hubs), salad, corn, applesauce
--Hamburgers (bun optional), salad, grilled broccoli, jello
--Ham, au gratin potatoes, green beans, applesauce

Next Monday:
--Taco Bean Soup

--Apple Strudel Muffins
--Pumpkin Cookies--made from the pumpkin Bubby grew in the school garden
--Applesauce (and possibly some pear/apple sauce, too)
--"Skinny" ranch dressing (made with my homemade Greek yogurt and my homemade ranch mix)

Monday, September 22, 2014

Menu Plan for the Week of September 22

Hey all.  No time to chat, but I just wanted to take a minute to get our menu plan up.  You know, just in case you're wondering what's for dinner tonight.  Here ya go:

--Pizza, salad, corn
--Chicken or beef tacos with flour or corn tortillas, taco fixings, pears
--Mini pizzas, salad, orange Julius (MC's Family & Consumer Ed homework)
--Pesto chicken skewers, grilled veggie skewers, cauliflower/broccoli/carrots
--Sausage & white bean soup, tortilla chips, veggies & dip
--Southwest chicken and beans, rice, salad
--Ham, au gratin potatoes, green beans, applesauce

--Greek yogurt
--Almond butter

Have a great week!

Monday, September 15, 2014

Menu plan for the week of September 15

Hey, all. Our current meal challenge?  We need to leave the house by 5 pm, four days a week, and by 6 pm on the 5th.  Leaving at 5 means we have to eat at 4:30.  But no one's hungry at 4:30.  And we don't get home until 8, at which time showers must be taken and beds gone to.  But we soldier on... And no one has actually died of hunger just yet.

This week we're having guests.  Which is good, because guests can put the meatloaf in or whatever as I'm shuttling kiddos to activities.  At least they won't go hungry.

Here's what's on the menu this week.

--fend for yourself/supper at Cub Scouts
--Hot beef sandwiches, carrots, salad
--Southwest chicken and beans, corn, salad
--Spaghetti with marinara & meatballs, spaghetti squash, green beans, salad
--Grilled chicken, spinach & strawberry salad, grilled asparagus
--Turkey wild rice meatloaf (and a beef/sausage meatloaf for the less adventurous among us), mashed potatoes, corn, green beans, peaches
--Grilled Pork chops with portobellos in red wine sauce, grilled broccoli, applesauce
--Pesto grilled chicken skewers, grilled veggie skewers, broccoli, cauliflower, carrots
--Beef or chicken tacos with corn or flour tortillas, taco toppings, black bean & corn salad, pears

--Gluten-free pancakes
--Grandpa R's chicken & rice soup
--Sausage & white bean slow cooker soup
--Pumpkin pie energy bites 

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Tuesday's Tip: How to Drink More Water

This post is dedicated to my friends, J & Gwen, and my new buddy Debbie, who were recently told they should be drinking half their body weight in ounces of water daily, and to Chip, who mentioned she wanted to drink more water.

So...you want to drink more water.  Good for you!  Really, it is so good for you.  But it's not always easy. 

Here's my fool proof method for increasing your water intake.

First thing in the morning, drink at least 16 oz of water, preferably more, but you might have to work up to that.  Then, every time you go to the bathroom, drink 8-16 oz of water afterwards.  It's a continuous positive feedback loop.  The more you drink, the more you pee, and the more you pee, the more you drink.  {Taper off about 4 hours before you're planning to go to bed, otherwise you'll be up all night.}  Brilliant, if I do say so myself.  And I do.  Say it.

Of course, there are situations in which this method might prove to be...uncomfortable.  Can we say that?  Uncomfortable?  Like, for instance, if you are a teacher and can't leave your classroom every 30 minutes.  Or if you're going on a 4 mile hike/slow-jog/walk and there's no bathroom at the trail-head. 

Not that that's happened to me or anything.  OK, maybe it did.  This morning.

As I made the turn onto the road that leads to the trail head, my bladder was letting me know that something needed to happen, and soon, or we were going to have a situation on our hands.  Or shoes.  Just then, I heard a loud male voice coming from my left saying, "you need to go potty!"

I should have responded in an equally loud voice (so he could hear me through the trees and undergrowth), "well, yes I do actually, but how did you know?  Uh...may I use your bathroom?"  But I did not.  Instead, I chuckled to myself about the disembodied and apparently omniscient voice and continued on to confirm my recollection that there were no restrooms at this particular trail head.

For next week's tip, I'll tell you how to pee in the woods.  Step one: learn to recognize poison ivy.

We're all about educating the public here.

Have a great day, and drink more water!

Friday, September 5, 2014

Until You're Mine by Samantha Hayes: a review

When I recently read Until You're Mine by Samantha Hayes, the book drew me in--I found it difficult to pull myself away from the story.

Claudia Morgan-Brown has it all--a loving husband with a great career, an established family with 2 adorable stepsons, and she's pregnant with her first, long-awaited and much hoped for baby.  But she is also committed to her full time job as a social worker, so she hires an almost-seems-too-good-to-be-true nanny, Zoe, to help out with the children.

To top it off, there has been a rash of attacks on pregnant women recently, leaving Claudia feeling vulnerable.  With her husband out of town for work and her family far away, who will protect her?  And why does she feel so unsettled about her nanny, Zoe?

This book sucked me in from the very first chapter.  It is compelling, well written, and real.  The authors' descriptions make the characters, settings, and situations come alive.  It was like reading a movie.  I knew what was going to happen, but I just had to keep reading to find out how and why.  A plot twist near the end sent my mind reeling--in fact, I'm still shaking my head about it.  I think that's the mark of a masterful author, to tell the truth.  This story made my head spin, and I never saw it coming, but in retrospect, it makes sense.  I have to read this book again, now that I know how it ends.

Bottom line: you might not want to read this book while you're pregnant, but if you're looking for an intelligent thriller that you can't put down, this is your book.

I received this book for free from the publisher through Blogging for Books in exchange for my honest review.

For more information, check out these links:

This week in review

Howdy, y'all.  Day 4 of school and things are going well.  As much as I can tell, everyone likes their classes (MC starts his full schedule of classes today, having spent the last 3 days doing orientation activities).  Everyone has gotten to school and back home safely each day, and everyone has figured out lunch.  In short, I'm feeling much less nauseous today than I was 3 days ago.

This week started off with the long Labor Day weekend.  Hubby had planned on taking the boys on a canoe camping trip, but events conspired to make him change his plans.  So, instead of canoeing, he kayaked every day of the weekend, in between house projects. 

One of Hubby's weekend projects was this:

Mason jar lights for our headboard!  I really love the way these look, and they make really pretty patterns on the ceiling, too.  Thanks, Hubby!  Did I tell you the kids want them now? :)

On Monday, Bubby kayaked in whitewater for the first time.  So proud of that boy :)

 He's so little!

Tuesday my boys started 9th, 6th, and 1st grade.  New schools for 2 of them, and all 3 are in different schools.  School itself went well.  Bussing, not so much.  Apparently they changed a bunch of bus schedules over the holiday weekend, and expected the parents to just know about the changes.  Argh!

We've had football practice this week at 5:30 pm each day.  It's a lot, for sure, but I am so thankful that MC's not in elementary school anymore.  If he was, he would have about a 20 minute turn-around time at home during which he would need to do homework, eat supper, and get ready for football.  Crazy.  Most nights he doesn't get home until 8, which means he has about half an hour to eat again (because who can eat a full supper at 4:30 pm?  Well, besides my college friends, who ate every day at 4...), shower, and get to bed.  So as difficult as it's been, it could be much worse.

Next week he starts his full schedule with practice Monday, Thursday, and Friday, and games Tuesday and Saturday.  The season lasts just 6 more weeks, so we can do this.

Thursday night was open house at the middle school, so Hubby and I went over to talk to some of MC's teachers.  We left feeling a whole lot better about how he's going to be supported in his learning, so while I'm still anxious for his future, and I still can't see how we're going to get from where we are to where he needs to be, for now I have hope.

This morning, I slow-jogged/walked a very hilly 3.6 miles in 35 minutes, if you believe the trail map.  This means, if you do the math, that I traveled 3 miles on foot in less than 30 minutes.  Which means I've met my goal, nearly 2 months ahead of schedule.  Which means I never have to run again. 

Except I don't believe the trail map, and I really do want to enjoy running.  Guess I have to just keep going... this kind of reminds me another goal I made, once upon a time, involving pie crust...

How was your week?

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Happy New Year!

Last night I posted this status update on Facebook:
I'm feeling more nervous for this back to school than I have for a LOT of back to schools. Maybe since [AKD] started kindergarten 9 years ago. I feel like I'm gonna throw up.
I take that back.  I don't think I have ever felt this nervous on back to school day.  Ever.  Including when I was in school. 

Some of my friends wrongly assumed I was nervous about AKD starting High School.  My friends assured me he would be fine, but I already know that.  Yes, it's a big step and I can hardly believe my baby is taking it today, but nope.  Not really.  He's ready.  AKD is...amazing.  Confident and responsible and resourceful and suchagreatkid.  And Bubby, well, he's in the same school that all of my kids have attended, surrounded by grown ups who know and love him, have known him since he was born, with the same teacher MC had, in the same classroom all of my kids spent time in.

No, the one I'm really concerned about is my brand new middle schooler.  MC is also amazing and suchagreatkid, but confident, responsible, and resourceful are not words I would use to describe him.  It is incredibly fortunate that his older brother walked the Middle School halls before him, otherwise I don't know if I would be able to form complete sentences right now.  

I know he'll get it eventually.  I know he has lots of support to help him adjust.  I know God has great plans for him.  But sitting here staring at all of the obstacles in his path between here and there, I just can't see the way through.

Praise be to the God who sees the path and shows us just what is needed to get to the next bend.

I still feel like I'm gonna throw up.

Anyway... Happy new year!

The calendar may say it starts in January, but we all know that for students and teachers and mamas of school-aged kids, the new year really starts in September, when the kids go back to school.  It feels like a time for new beginnings, to reevaluate, to reset, to get back on track.

So my question for you, dear friends, is what are you resetting or starting new?

No first day of school pics because I'm a failure.  Here are some from last year.  They're a little bit taller now, and their hair is a little shorter, but you get the idea...

Monday, September 1, 2014

Menu Plan for the week of September 1

It's back to school week!  I'm kind of excited about that.  I'm also realistic.  I know that the school year is a whole different kind of busy.  It will be so good to get back into a more rigid routine, but it'll be kind of a bummer to have to wake up at a certain time every day.  Mixed feelings.  Bet you didn't see that one coming.

Anyway, we're going to eat this week, thank goodness.  Much better than last week when we didn't.  One of the kids got braces, so his teeth hurt, and another of the kids (oh, wait, it was the same one) started football practice...at 6 p.m. every night, and the other adult was out of town (New York this time--nice change from going to Mexico all the time, amIright?), which all added up to not a whole lot of meals actually being made.  MC subsisted on chocolate pudding and ramen noodles last week, and the rest of us didn't do a whole lot better, even though we could chew.

Right.  So.  This week will be better.  I hope.

Here's what's on the menu:

--Grilled chicken (make extra for a later meal), salad, carrots
--Bacon wrapped meatloaves (from the freezer), mashed potatoes, corn on the cob, salad
--Slow cooker easy chicken pot pie, biscuits, applesauce
--Easy crockpot Mongolian beef (double, freeze), rice, mixed vegetables
--Hot dogs/brats, buns, green stuff, grilled broccoli
--Chicken pesto calzones (use grilled chicken from Monday), broccoli/cauliflower/carrots
--Ham, au gratin potatoes, corn, jello

Next Monday supper:
--Spaghetti, green beans

--Apple Snickerdoodles
--Friendship bread (yes! my yeasties have awoken from their long summer's nap!  And yes, I will save you a starter, Chip)
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